Sophisticated, intimate and more than a little homey isn’t typically how tech-industry offices are described, but that’s exactly what JHL Design, of Portland, Oregon, achieved when it converted the penthouse of a 1927 building into a functioning workspace.
Having served myriad uses in its lifetime, the 371-square-metre space is defined by its pitched concrete walls (it’s situated under a mansard roofline) and exposed columns. When those walls – which had been painted multiple times and covered by drywall over the years – were stripped down to their rawest state, the residual staining and pockmarking offered a dramatic finish that Holly Freres, JHL’s principal, opted to work with rather than eliminate.
Having lived in Japan for many years, the client had an affinity for that country’s architecture, which JHL nodded to by framing a central communal area with a cedar and glass wall system. “The wood form follows cues from shōji screens, but modernized,” says JHL creative director Liz Morgan. The offices and meeting rooms surround this space on the other side of the walls.
To outfit the communal area, the team layered in furnishings and materials with an overtly domestic vibe, reflecting the growing trend toward “resimercial” workspaces.
The existing columns naturally divided the room into three zones, which the designers reinterpreted as a library sandwiched between two lounges. All of them were kitted out with soft, sculptural lighting; furniture was upholstered in leather and wool. The feeling, overall, is more cozy corner than corner office.
For a local tech office, a design by Portland’s JHL eschews a corporate look for something more “resimercial.”